Darren Lynn Bousman has had quite the unique career trajectory. His first three films, all part of the "Saw" franchise, opened at #1. After becoming the first director in Hollywood history to achieve that feat, he moved on to a project long dear to his heart, "Repo! The Genetic Opera". The self described "Rock Opera" opened on a limited basis Friday, November 7th. Starting November 10th he is embarking on a 7 city tour to promote the film, and here's what happened when we sat down with him recently to discuss the special slate of screenings.
What I don't respect is personal attacks. I guess that's the thing that kind of took me by surprise.
So when does your Repo! tour start?
It starts November 10th, and we go till November 17th. One city every night, one showing.
I know this has been a real passion project for you. How long has the idea been around?
For me, since 2001. It's been circulating since 1999. I wrote the film based on the stage show, which I directed the original incarnation of. So I did the original stage show, and then from that we did a short film and from that we did a movie.
Your career obviously had a pretty fascinating start with the Saw franchise, and having your first three films open at #1 at the box office. Repo! almost seems like the exact opposite of your other work. Can you talk about the difference in the projects?
Here's the deal, today's been kind of a rough day for me because the reviews have started to hit. The reviews have been so polarizing. Some of the reviews are atrocious, in fact I'll read you one right now, it says, "'Repo! A Genetic Opera', this year's worst film, or the worst film ever made". The next one underneath that calls it "a breath of fresh air, best movie I've seen all year". So, that is the majority of the reviews. They are completely polarizing, and you know what, that's what I wanted to make. I wanted to make something that wasn't safe, that was dangerous, and I think we accomplished that.
Sometimes those polarizing views can almost be a good thing, it's a sign you at least got a rise out of people.
I agree. It sucks because the majority of people will go on and they will read the reviews, but this is not a movie for critics. It's just not, it's a movie for fans. That's the movie I set out to make and I think that's the one we made. Love it or hate it, it's completely different. We've hit that. This movie is as polarizing as it gets
There was originally supposed to be a wide release, right? What happened with that?
There was never a guarantee of one. The issue was that they were going to wait and see how the movie came in. Again, the movie lives up to exactly what I said it was going to be, it's a rock opera. That doesn't mean it's for everyone. In fact, it's not for everyone. That's a select group of poeple. So I think that as sad as it was, this idea that I had didn't cross over to a lot of the higher ups. I stand behind this movie more than anything I've done before. That doesn't make it any easier to sell though, in fact it might make it harder.
So what can people expect from the screenings on this tour, a spectacle?
It's a weird thing. We are doing the road show based on the idea that you need to see this film in the theater. You can't watch this on DVD and fully appreciate it for what it is. If you can't see it in the movie theater, of course buy the DVD, but this is a larger than life experience, it's an event. We want that to be appreciated by everyone. So myself and the other filmmaker Terrance are actually flying to 7 different cities in 7 nights, and we're actually going to show one screening of the movie in each one. Most of them already sold out. 50% of them have sold out. What to expect there? Chaos. There's going to be people dressed up as characters, people singing the songs... there are going to be people booing. It's going to be a mishmash of everything. And again, that's exciting to me.
Obviously there are parallels with Rocky Horror. Was that conscious?
I love Rocky Horror. It's one of my favorite movies. So I think that obviously was definitely an inspiration for us. Are we the same movie? Absolutely not, we're completely different. That being said, the reason we wanted to make this movie was the inspiration that Rocky Horror gave to us. Basically we wanted to make a movie that inspired audiences to be weird, be different, and trust me I don't conform. I'm not the typical audience member. I like things that are out there and things that are different, and that's what Rocky Horror was.
Was having a digital listening party before the release your idea?
Yes. A lot of times music is in a movie, in this case, the music IS the movie. if you don't like it, you're not going to like the movie. The movie is one long song, so it's important that people can listen to the music and become fans, or not become fans of it. That's what we wanted to do, and I think that's again what we accomplished. By releasing it early, people could tell if they were going to like it. And those who responded have already bought tickets to the theater.
Again, Opera means music from beginning to end. People are going into this thinking it's going to be a musical, it's not a musical, it's a rock opera. There's a big difference. In musicals you have breaks, that's not what we do. We sing from the begining to the end. I think the intention was to make a 21st century opera, and I think that's exactly what we did.
Going back to some of those reviews you mentioned earlier, had you anticipated this film to be so polarizing?
No, I mean again we always knew from the very first day that this wans't for everyone. What I don't respect is personal attacks. I guess that's the thing that kind of took me by surprise. One of the critics actually called me a douchebag. Which, I am a douchebag, but this guy doesn't fucking know me to call me a douchebag. That's the kind of thing that took me by surprise. If you're going to critique the movie that's one thing, but don't make a personal attack on me. That was one of the things that was surprising to me.
Love Repo!, or hate it, I guarantee you you haven't seen anything like it. I think one of the problems is people are trying to compare it to Rocky Horror Picture Show. And we're not, we're not Rocky Horror Picture show. That's not what we are. You can't compare it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer the musical, that's not what we are. People need to stop trying to compare it to other things and take it for what it is, and if you stop trying to do that you can appreciate it a lot more.
It's crazy that two movies that involve organ repossession are coming out so close to each other.
So where can people go for information on these screenings?
Log on reporoadtour.com, you can get in there and see where we're going to be, and where in your city we'll be stopping. I recommend everyone please try and come see it in the theaters. Again, you have a chance today and tomorrow or the next day to vote on what kinds of movies you want to see made. You can vote for mainstream movies, you can vote for rehashes and sequels and remakes, or you can vote for something completely new and unique. And again, I'm not claiming you're going to like this movie. There's a possibility you will hate this movie, but the fact is it's something different and I'm just happy and proud to be a part of something completely different.
Again, this movie is worth it if for nothing else than the sheer "what the fuck" factor. I love that. If nothing else, come watch the cacophony of chaos on the screen. That's what we made the movie for. And it does get disheartening when people try to pick it apart for things it should be.
So once you're done with the tour, what's next for you?
I'm working on a couple of projects, but nothing I can announce yet. Hopefully in a week or so I'll be able to say what we're doing, but I am working on a new project.
"Saw V" was just released in theaters, have you seen it?
Yes, I've seen the film. It was different. Here's the thing, it's a disservice to David Hackyl if you try to compare it to Saw 1-4, because it is its own film. I think a lot of people at home are trying to compare them, and they're different films. I liked it.
I did too, I thought it was interestingly streamlined, which seemed like the logical direction the series had to go in.
Definitely, and I think again, it will be interesting to see what the deal with "Saw VI" is. It's weird to already be talking about VI (laughs), but again VI is coming out. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Were you at all involved in "Saw V"?
I actually was not. I had nothing to do with V, except be there and give my support. I was really busy with "Repo!". I was actually editing when they were doing "Saw V", so I just didn't have the chance to become involved.
Another thread we've been following here is this film "Reposession Mambo", which seems to have a strikingly similar story to "Repo!". What are your thoughts on that?
If you were to ask me that 6 months ago, I would have said "you mean reposess our ideas?" But I've grown less bitter over time. Movies always come out that are similar to other movies. It's crazy that two movies that involve organ reposession are coming out so close to each other, or filmed in the exact same city and share some of the same crew. That's a little weird to me. That being said, only time will tell which one's a better film or which one does better. But again, I know nothing else outside of that. I know it's supposedly based on a book that hasn't come out yet, where Repo! actually has this long history of being around since 1999.
I just had one more question. I read on your IMDB that you were once a PA for Tara Reid on the set of "Van Wilder"? What was that like?
Yes I was (laughs). It was insane. It was one of my first movie jobs so I was kind of starstruck to a certain exent, and really angry and bitter that I was there. I think doing that movie kind of reaffirmed my passion for filmmaking and made me prioritize what was important in my life and being a PA on a set was not important to me. So I made sure to quickly get out of that, and as fate would have it I was actually fired from that movie, so I don't think they were very happy to have me there either.
I think I was working on my script at the time. They were not happy that my days were spent working on another project.
So Tara Reid was not satisfied?
No (laughs), Tara Reid was not very happy. I'm sure she wouldn't even remember me now, but I'm sure she wasn't very impressed by my time on set.